377,000 students. 1,300 schools. In 1960, AIR launched Project Talent, the largest and most comprehensive study of high school students ever conducted in the United States. Now, as the original study participants move into retirement, Project Talent has become an important resource for understanding the aging process.
Created by AIR’s founder, John Flanagan, and funded by the U.S. Department of Education, the study assessed a broad cross-section of the American high school population. Students participated in a two-day battery of tests and questionnaires covering aptitude, abilities, interests, and individual and family characteristics. Until 1974, the study followed these students, collecting new data at one, five, and eleven years after their expected high school graduation date.
The purpose of the study was to (1) create a national inventory of human resources and talent, (2) better understand the processes by which young people choose and advance their careers, and (3) discern which experiences and influences are the most important in preparing students for their future.
Project Talent is now in its 59th year. Today, Project Talent is a longitudinal study supported by the National Institute on Aging (NIA R01AG056163, R01AG056164, and R01AG053155). Through its unique and in-depth interviews, Project Talent provides an invaluable and growing body of multidisciplinary data that researchers can use to address important questions about the challenges and opportunities of aging. Our goal is to understand the nature of aging and to extend the healthy, active years of life. Our current efforts are focused on three areas:
- Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Dementias (ADRD) - Our primary focus on dementia has the broad goal of identifying adolescent antecedents, resilience factors, and lifecourse mechanisms for Alzheimer’s Disease and related dementias, and later life health and cognition.
- Health Disparities - Our second focus includes research on population-level differences in health status and life expectancy. Socioeconomic adversity in early life is a risk factor for poor brain health in later life, but some individuals are resilient, achieving better-than-expected outcomes despite facing early life adversity. The mechanisms of resilience, as well as the causal pathways between early life adversity and later life brain health, are unclear, but educational experiences are very likely critical. Our research will evaluate the role of school quality and racial disparities in promoting resilience to early life adversity.
- Mortality and Morbidity - Our third focus includes research about the role individual traits play in socioeconomic mortality and morbidity differentials across the lifecourse.